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Definition of «Artemisinin»

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Artemisinin: An antimalarial agent extracted from the dry leaves of the Chinese herb Artemsisia annua (qinghaosu or sweet wormwood). This plant is grown each year starting from seed and only yields artemesinin under specific agricultural and climatological conditions. Wormwood is cultivated only in China, Vietnam and pilot projects in Tanzania and India. It takes eight months to mature.

Artemisinin acts rapidly and potently against the malarial parasite, including some drug-resistant strains. Without significant side effects, it quickly reduces fever and lowers the blood levels of the parasite. This help to keep small outbreaks of malaria from becoming epidemics and to quell ongoing epidemics. In a malaria epidemic in the early 1990's in Vietnam, artemisinin reduced the death rate by 97%.

To decrease the risk of resistance, artemisinin is taken as part of a "cocktail." The cocktail of artemisinin and lumefantrine (Benflumetol) is marketed as Coartem and Riamet. Artemisinin was first isolated in 1965 by Chinese military researchers. Pronounced ar-te-mis'-in-in with the accent on the mis.

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